MINISTERS have backtracked on controversial plans for English votes for English laws (Evel) by promising to redraft the proposals and postponing a vote on the issue until later this year.
Prime Minister David Cameron had faced the prospect of an embarrassing defeat after it became clear some Conservative backbenchers would join Labour and the SNP in objecting to the plans.
House of Commons leader Chris Grayling told MPs yesterday that instead of trying to change parliamentary rules known as standing orders on Wednesday with a debate of just an hour and a half, plans to give English MPs a veto over English-only matters will not be brought forward until September at the earliest.
The climbdown follows a defeat for the government in a debate called by Liberal Democrat former Scottish secretary Alistair Carmichael during which Tory MPs shared opposition unease over “major constitutional change” being rushed through Parliament.
One leading Tory backbencher, Peter Bone, said MPs should be given time and “sit all night if necessary” to consider the changes.
Some Welsh Conservative MPs, including former cabinet minister David Jones, also suggested they might rebel if their votes on cross-border English matters that affect their constituents could be ignored.
At the weekly business statement in the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Grayling announced that MPs will have two days of debate a new draft of the rule changes.
The draft will be published on Monday and the first day of debate is still scheduled for Wednesday.
The second day has not been announced but all days of Commons time before the summer recess have been filled.
Mr Grayling said: “On Monday I will, having listened to comments from MPs, publish a modified set of draft standing orders on Evel.
“We will debate those on Wednesday. Subsequent to that debate, I will table a final set of standing orders which we will debate at an early opportunity once the House returns.”
The move came a day after Mr Cameron was accused by both Labour and the SNP of breaking his party’s English manifesto commitment to allow the changes to be considered by the House of Commons procedure committee before being enacted.
It also comes ahead of a major vote on foxhunting in England on Thursday next week when Tory MPs will be looking at whether the SNP will maintain their “self-deny ordinance” on not voting on English-only matters where there is no financial effect on Scotland.
Following yesterday’s announcement, Labour’s shadow Commons leader Angela Eagle mocked Mr Grayling for getting the government into a “mess”. She claimed Mr Grayling had been summoned by Mr Cameron to explain the situation and said the House of Commons schedule had been “clearly subject to last-minute, sudden change”.
Ms Eagle, who is bidding to become her party’s deputy leader, said: “This week the government’s reckless and shoddy plans for what they like to call Evel have descended into chaos.
“On Tuesday, you were dragged to this chamber kicking and screaming to account for your complex and controversial plans but it was clear from that debate you didn’t even have the support of your own side.
“We then had the sorry spectacle of the government abstaining on its own process while you fled the chamber in embarrassment.”